Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
"It was two in the morning and I couldn’t shake the idea from my head. I lay wide awake thinking about changing my life and becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. It was a powerful thought that grew and took hold of my imagination - becoming immersed in a different culture, working to help others, and gaining the insight of what life is like elsewhere in the world. For the past year I have known that my life needed to change but I never knew it would lead me to this point.
In early 2007 I met a wonderful friend who shared her experience of joining Peace Corps and her time in a small village in Niger. The stories fascinated me and I asked many questions about the culture, the people, the work, the positives and the negatives of being there. Something about the world fascinates me intensely and before I knew it I wanted to know more about this country in Africa and its people. To this day I still pause to read articles online that have even a passing reference to Niger.
With the seed of service planted in my mind I came across this quote by Daniel Dennett: “Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.” My professional work in the information technology field puts me in touch with a number of people whom I assist in many different ways. However the idea of helping people truly in need of technology in some far off place on the globe energizes me in a way that is beyond the way I feel in my current position. It is as if I made the connection between what I am doing and something more important than me: being of service to my country and to the world in a significant way.
For as long as I can remember the world outside my own intrigues me, but I have not found a way to connect that interest to a path in my life. Politics and political history provided the initial step in learning about people beyond the borders of the United States. This was followed by religious and cultural questions centering on what others believed and adhered to around the world and through recorded history. I feel my horizon opening up wider and wider.
Which brings me to the present. That yearning to be of service and to change the world coupled with a greater understanding of life on this earth matches perfectly with the ideals that the Peace Corps embodies. My intention is to lead efforts that build on the intuitive and creative minds already present in a foreign land. The culmination of this is to bring back these experiences and leadership skills and affect change in my own community. Mohandas Gandhi put it best: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.“ This is the perfect summation of why I desire to join the Peace Corps."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
"In the years since it's gained independence after the Soviet Union's collapse, Georgia has become a courageous democracy. Its people are making the tough choices that are required of free societies. Since the Rose Revolution in 2003, the Georgian people have held free elections, opened up their economy, and built the foundations of a successful democracy."
"With its actions in recent days Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world. Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."- Mark Twain
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"The quintet of lawyers, who called themselves the “War Council," drafted legal opinions that circumvented the military's code of justice, the federal court system and America's international treaties in order to prevent anyone — from soldiers on the ground to the president — from being held accountable for activities that at other times have been considered war crimes."
"The five lawyers saw legal opinions drafted by Yoo and others in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel as a shield ... that would make it hard to convict someone of acting on legal advice from the premier legal office in the administration."Nothing like covering one's hindquarters as a good start when patriotically fighting the "war" on terror.
"Asked why the Americans had detained him, Aminullah shook his head and said, 'Only God knows.' "My guess is that President Bush would have the same answer to that question.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
For the time being the denouement comes from the Senate, approving of retroactive immunity handed over to the telecommunication corporations who knowingly violated the law at the behest of the Bush security apparatus.
For background, be certain to watch the Frontline documentary on the subject of warrantless eavesdropping by the United States government. Titled, "Spying On The Homefront," written by Hendrick Smith and Rick Young, it exposes what was known about the program first reported on by the New York Times regarding the cooperation between the Administration and several of America's largest telecommunication companies. A tragedy for sure, corporations who were expressly forbidden from turning over customer data as written in U.S. law gave away as much information as was asked for in an apparent bid to curry favor for future government largess.
The Senate passed their amnesty program on the 12th of February. The House blocked the passage of its version of the bill and by Friday the "Protect America Act" went by the way-side. There is no reason to believe however that at a later date the Democrats in the House won't pass a bill that looks remarkably similar to the craven, cave-in Senate version when they return from a one week break, however it was a moment of partial resistance to the dread and doom peddling of President Bush and his proxies in Congress.
To whit: Something quickly picked up on by commentators and some news outlets alike was President Bush's own veto threat against a 21 day extension of the bill from the House. We were under such a grave an ominous threat (no, Bush was not talking as a press spokesman from lawsuit-fearing telecommunications companies) from terrorists, that he would go so far as to veto any extension of the law to keep the status quo working. Status quo here means the illegal gathering of data as outlawed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. So the President chides Congress by not adopting his wished-for-legislation that he felt obliged to veto had it come to him with one small string attached.
Then what did he really need from Congress? Immunity for possible law-breaking by corporations. Congress could have bent over so that their collective craniums were behind their ankles to deliver a renewal of the Protect America Act but that wasn't even remotely close to the issue - it was the telecommunication industry blanket immunity that was/is needed by the Bush Administration.
What is glaringly obvious is that the Administration had been caught as red-handed as one can be caught, and needs a very precise legal instrument to cover up the tracks. Broad immunity for illegally spying on citizens without suspicion of wrong doing.
It never hurts to read up on our Constitution (and the Bill of Rights) at times like these.
Amendment IV[italics by this writer]
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In the link above to the Frontline documentary, a brief exchange is included of the former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez being pressed on whether there were any other programs being conducted during this time. Sen. Feinstein's direct question, "Has the President ever invoked this authority with respect to any activity other than the program we are discussing, the NSA Surveillance Program," to which AG Gonzalez responded, "Senator, I am not comfortable going down the road of saying 'yes' or 'no' as to what the President has or has not authorized." If there are other programs or spying techniques being used, they are not to be talked about in an open Senate hearing, this is for certain.
For the next year at least no one can be absolutely certain that Big Brother isn't watching, listening, or sifting through one's house, papers, or effects (and that would include one's communications).
Welcome to the police state. Hold your number up and look straight at the camera please. Now to the left. Thank you.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Overall most coverage now has the positive outlook of what the increase has done for the country. Indicators were done in the second half of the year for the typical violence, and that was directly connected by the media to the boots on the ground.
Usually within the last 10 to 15 seconds however, the reporter or anchor would somberly note that the political progress that was hoped for with this escalation would follow, but has yet clearly developed. Cue next segment.
"In other news, the economy here in the U.S. is faltering and worries of a recession loom ..."
Last year at about this time I made mention of what I expected to be the result of the escalation -- more violence, at least at the outset. While that was true for the first few months, violent death and explosions did curtail through the summer months into the fall. I ended with this quote:
Some or maybe all of these instances may never come to fruition but this is the glum prediction of Iraq, and history has shown that the more dire prognostications have come true more often than the rosy ones. The Administration has constantly relied on brute force to fix Iraq, and there are few if any tangible results from said policies. The rhetoric of the President is fixed on success, but the jargon of his policy is set on destruction.From the reports that came throughout 2007, it appeared that one could break Baghdad further; right along sectarian lines in fact, neighborhood by neighborhood. The city now sees less violence and more partition walls which has affected security. Yet is the country better off for the past year? Does a segregated city mean progress?
Breaking Baghdad even further is not the solution.
From recent citations through conservative organs, it is oft-reported that things have finally settled down and that the aggressive invasion of a foreign country followed by years of occupation are paying off and thereby vindicating the rationale for the adventure in Iraq.
The daily death toll is still the daily death toll out of Iraq. US troops continue dying (with a recent up-tick in the early part of January 2008) and Iraqis are still seeing bodies turn up in the morning on the streets, though not in the sheer volume that they were as in the beginning of 2007. Additionally, the Iraqi government is no closer to negotiating their problems away through major legislative efforts.
Bringing this to light was a post at TomDispatch.com by Tom Engelhardt reviewing some of the more trying points of much of the success talk from the right. Titled "Tomgram: CSI Iraq", Engelhardt reviews the situation in Iraq and the sight is not pretty. Throughout most of his article, he reiterates that the talk of success fills the void of what America must do next in the occupation of a foreign country. This technique is the equivalent of buying time; to make sure that the problem is not one of the Bush Administration's closing tasks but the grand opening headache of the next Administration.
At one point, the surge was begot to enable political reconciliation. That phase of the surge is essentially stillborn after six solid months of inaction on the part of the Iraqi Parliament (notwithstanding the one law passed recently allowing some ex-Baath party members to return to government positions -- provided any existed for them at this point). The city of Kirkuk, with its Sunni and Turk minorities, is just as in flux as it was in 2006 with the added gem of a Turkish government on the edge of its border waiting for any excuse to send in more combat missions into Kurdish-held northern Iraq to fight the militant groups of the PKK. If anything, the success-in-Iraq crowd tend to grudgingly allude to the failure in terms of political stability needed. For now.
Another fine article describing how well things aren't going in Iraq comes from Andrew J. Bacevich of the Washington Post. In "Surge to Nowhere," Bacevich reviews much of the same evidence for concluding that things in Iraq are not going well, but reserves much of the venom for those commentators who have rushed to parade "success" on as many news cycles as possible. From his article:
"Look beyond the spin, the wishful thinking, the intellectual bullying and the myth-making. The real legacy of the surge is that it will enable Bush to bequeath the Iraq war to his successor -- no doubt cause for celebration at AEI [American Enterprise Institute], although perhaps less so for the families of U.S. troops. Yet the stubborn insistence that the war must continue also ensures that Bush's successor will, upon taking office, discover that the post-9/11 United States is strategically adrift. Washington no longer has a coherent approach to dealing with Islamic radicalism. Certainly, the next president will not find in Iraq a useful template to be applied in Iran or Syria or Pakistan."With the expense of occupying Afghanistan and Iraq running between two and three billion dollars a week, it is a curious suggestion indeed what the U.S. can learn from President Bush's war. In order to stop a dictator from using weapons which he never had in the first place, George W. Bush will have placed trillions of I.O.U.s into the coffers for our grandchildren to pay later, and destabilized a region not known for stability in the first place which the country relies on for a hefty dollop of its foreign oil.
Least of which we should note the hundreds of thousands of lives terminated in the bargain. A tragedy, each and every one.
We witness the end of an empire. Good riddance.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
What it was over 150 years ago was a system of political control by party bosses at the local and / or regional level. The conventions held by the parties would actually determine who the candidate was at times, and at certain points in history would yield most excellent candidates (Abraham Lincoln) and not so excellent candidates (James Buchanan). The campaign was typically shorter, and depending on the most popular political names of the era, candidates themselves would rarely participate in open campaigning.
Today, quite the opposite case is apparent. John Edwards on the Democratic side had been planting campaign seeds and organizational roots across Iowa since his departure from the Senate in 2005. Governor Romney has been active since 2006 when Giuliani was still ahead in Iowa, and paid quite a sum to win a straw poll in August. What America has now is a campaign season that begins roughly two to three years in advance of the actual election.
Further, the campaign season of the primaries is becoming a contest amongst the states to be "more important" and nab the spotlight and monetary boon that is the early voting states. Iowa will not be denied going first, New Hampshire will not be denied being the first voting primary. Crowding into second are large states with huge delegations to send to the conventions, including states such as Florida and Michigan who jumped ahead against the behest of their own parties to vote at later dates. It is unlikely that those delegates will be seated come summer 2008 in the Democratic side, but it remains for a lawsuit to decide. Come 2011 or earlier, might it be possible that 10 or 12 states will vie for 3rd in the nation polling days?
In essence, the U.S. will have two candidates for the Presidency decided some time before March, with months and months to fight it out across a handful of closely contested battleground states. This observation comes before New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decides if he will launch his own independent bid for the office.
What are the positives of an election campaign that lasts in excess of two years for an office with a term of only four? At what point is the system a detriment to the process of electing a president? Having a candidate lock up the nomination in two or three weeks time is almost akin to the old days of party bosses deigning one man over another to become the nominee in the proverbial smoke-filled back room. It is quick, and an extraordinary slice of the voting public has practically no say.
The one identifiable positive may well be that a relative unknown can work the ground campaign in a small region such as Iowa or New Hampshire and become a force in the election (President Carter had a similar run in 1976) and thwart the idea that only national figures or those with overly large war chests need apply. Even so, the individual that breaks through may still not be the most qualified candidate on the ballot among his or her party, let alone on the final national ticket.
I guess my proclivity runs towards the path of adding excitement back to the nominating convention. By not having a nominee, each party wrangles amongst themselves about who will be the best candidate, duke it out, have multiple votes, and charge out of the convention with a nominee and a campaign.
Of course this is more of a wish as the reality of a 24-hour news system means constant talk about who is ahead, behind, and in the middle of the race of races. With that as a backdrop, it is not a surprise that a campaign that lasts years is only there to feed the media beast so-to-speak.
Once the new President takes the oath of office, there will again be eyes back on who is visiting Iowa to stake out their very first campaign office in January 2009.